Friday, July 29, 2011

Pistachio Scones

Here's another delicious scone. These came out extra-good, for a three reasons:

1) I used white whole-wheat flour (King Arthur brand; organic). I usually choose whole wheat pastry flour for scones, but decided to change it up because I like white ww in quick breads and because I needed to use it. I'm convinced it has a slightly sweet flavor that worked particularly well here. It doesn't taste "wheaty" and the texture is similar to what you'd get with white or ww pastry flour.

2) I used the tastiest pistachio flavoring oil and the "right" (for me) amount of butter. The pistachio flavor in the scone was so nice (it has a similar depth and intensity to almond extract). I also used food coloring to get a green tint, which didn't show up well in the pictures. This is just a visual element, but I'm a fan of it. I don't make excessively buttery scones and considered skimping, but 8 Tbs was the perfect amount in this recipe for a good texture.

3) Icing. If you're in doubt, make a simple glaze and any quick bread gets that much better. Enjoy!

This is the size you'll get if you cut 12 scones according to the recipe directions. In this batch, I also made the icing extra green. 

These scones are skinnier because I didn't divide the dough into 2 circles in this batch.

Pistachio Scones
You can substitute 3/4 tsp almond extract for the pistachio oil. I adapted this recipe from these Lemon-Currant Scones, which originally came from Sunset magazine. You can use either gel or liquid food coloring. I needed quite a lot of gel, and kept adding until I liked the color (see recipe for more info). When I used liquid, 1 tsp gave me a very green scone (cute if it's for St. Patrick's Day). If you want color that looks more like the pictures above, try 1/2 tsp.

Makes 12 medium scones

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (300 grams)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus 1 to 2 Tbs as needed
1 large egg
1 tsp pistachio flavoring oil
Green gel food coloring as needed or 1/2 to 1 tsp liquid food coloring
8 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small chunks and chilled
1/2 cup dried cranberries (78 grams)
1/2 cup toasted shelled pistachios, chopped (2 oz)

2 cups (approx.) powdered sugar (120 g)
Milk or water as needed
Green gel food coloring
Scant 1/4 tsp pistachio flavoring oil

Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In glass measuring cup (or small bowl), whisk together the buttermilk, egg and pistachio oil. Add enough gel coloring to turn the mixture dark green (not as dark as “forest green,” but going in that direction).

Add butter to flour mixture and incorporate with a pastry blender or your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger, shaggy chunks. Add green liquid mixture and stir gently; allow mixture to rest and hydrate for 3 to 5 minutes. This step helps minimize stirring. Now, stir just until dry ingredients are moist. Stir in cranberries and pistachios. If you have excess crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, drizzle in 1/2 to 1 Tbs buttermilk to incorporate them (you may not need any at all).

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and quickly knead together. Divide in half and pat each half into a thick disk. With a floured rolling pin, roll out each disk about 3/4 to 1-inch-thick circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and bake 13 to 15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and enough milk (about 2 Tbs) to form a thick glaze that you can drizzle off a spoon. Add gel coloring to achieve desired tone and pistachio oil for desired intensity of flavor (a little goes far). Spread over scones and let set.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tagliatelle with Chestnuts and Truffle Oil

File this under "tasty things to do with truffle oil." A scant teaspoon of the stuff drizzled over each bowlful is so nice. This dish also involves one of my current favorite cooking tricks: Use chopped portabello mushrooms in your base for pan sauces.

You know how a lot of dishes start with sauteeing a shallot, garlic, etc? Well, just add a chopped portabello cap or two to that. Then, when those mushrooms are a couple minutes from being tender, douse them in balsamic vinegar or sherry (to keep the garlic from burning, add it just before the liquid). Let it reduce until your ingredients are still a bit wet and the mushrooms are done. Then either pull it off the heat, or continue making your dish.

In this case, I added just-cooked tagliatelle and chopped chestnuts. Then I stirred it up, added some pasta cooking water for moisture and pulled it off the heat. I plated it and finished it off with fresh parsley, shaved ricotta salata cheese and that truffle oil.

I was going to write out a recipe, but it seems like I just did. Simple, fresh and fast with little details to make it great. The dish definitely highlighted the chestnuts, cheese and truffle oil, which was the big idea. I did a similar version with that same tagliatelle and mushroom mixture, as well as shredded chicken, peas and lemon. It was nice, but I loved the chestnut version....and the next day, I used the leftovers to make these brownies.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Olive Oil Crackers

Aren't these the cutest? I've noticed simple cracker recipes like this over the last couple years and mentally filed the idea away as something I'd like to try. The perfect opportunity final came up, and I wanted to test out my adorable square, scallop-edged biscuit cutters too.

The verdict: These crackers are simple enough to make, taste good, and keep surprisingly well (at least a week). The caveat for me is that I would only make these if I'm NOT also cooking a bunch of other things (like an actual meal). In that case, why on earth make crackers when you can just buy them?

My friend was throwing a cookout, so that was the ideal opportunity to try this out as my small contribution. They're fun, but only if you've got a little free time and feel like an easy baking project. Or you have an extensive biscuit cutter collection.

I used this recipe in The New York Times, but with my own toppings. The lead image features sesame and poppy seeds, along with some dried thyme. The second picture shows sumac (a red-tinted Middle Eastern spice, thyme and sesame seeds. I would also sprinkle flaky or kosher salt on with whatever topping you choose.

I've seen other recipes that call for a pasta roller to make the dough thin and uniform, but I don't think it's necessary. My rolling pin worked well. Finally, I quickly learned that it's important to prick the unbaked crackers with a fork, so they don't puff up in the oven. Are there any cracker makers out there? Have you renounced store bought forever, or do you feel the way I do (fun, but not essential)?